Ian Stamps – (Re)Write: The Story of Gratitude
Michael Mize – Comparing Human and Chimp DNA
Paul Tripp – Parenting Is Gospel Ministry
From the first chapter of the Bible to the last, God blesses humanity.1 The blessing of God is a theme like few others in Scripture, encompassing the entirety of God’s goodness to humanity. Despite this, the blessing theme is not generally well understood in Christian usage.2 Believers frequently ask God to bless them or their work without considering whether they are in a position to receive God’s blessing or whether they want to be placed in such a position. Noah was blessed by God when his faithful obedience condemned the world. God blessed Abraham when he told him to leave everything he knew; and though he obeyed in faith, Abraham has yet to receive the promises fully. Joseph received God’s blessing as a slave and a prisoner long before he received it as a government official. Thus, the believer’s proper desire for God’s blessing needs to be enriched with a biblical understanding of the nature of divine blessing. Genesis is the necessary starting place for gaining such an understanding as it contains nearly one sixth of all Scriptural references to blessing, by some estimates.3
1. Blessing and Cursing in the Structure of Genesis
The motif of blessing has been masterfully woven through the narrative structure of Genesis. Structurally, Genesis can be broken down along the lines of the “generations” (תוֹלְדוֹת), which yields a striking pattern with regard to blessing and cursing. The introduction is followed by ten generations which can be divided into major generations (which include extended narrative) and minor generations (with little or no narrative). The introductory section of Genesis (1:1–2:3) speaks of God’s blessing three times (1:22, 28; 2:3), giving special attention to its beginning upon earth, with no mention of a curse. The second section, “the generations of heaven and earth,” speaks of God’s curse three times (3:14, 17; 4:11) without direct reference to God’s blessing, thus emphasizing the beginning of the curse on earth. After this, each major generation is marked by a single mention of cursing4 and a minimum of one mention of blessing. As shown in Table 1, this consistent configuration of blessing and cursing reinforces the understanding that Genesis’ structure is based on the “generations.”
THE SCRIPTURES AND GOOD WORKS
Dangers in the Perversion of Truth
The Truth of God may well be likened to a narrow path skirted on either side by a dangerous and destructive precipice: in other words, it lies between two gulfs of error. The aptness of this figure may be seen in our proneness to sway from one extreme to another. Only the Holy Spirit’s enabling can cause us to preserve the balance, failure to do which inevitably leads to a fall into error, for “error” is not so much the denial of Truth as the perversion of Truth, the pitting of one part of it against another. The history of theology forcibly and solemnly illustrates this fact. One generation of men have rightly and earnestly contended for that aspect of Truth which was most needed in their day. The next generation, instead of walking therein and moving forward, warred for it, intellectually, as the distinguishing mark of their party,1 and usually, in their defense of what was assaulted, have refused to listen to the balancing Truth which often their opponents were insisting upon; the result being that they lost their sense of perspective and emphasized what they believed out of its scriptural proportions. Consequently, in the next generation, the true servant of God is called on almost to ignore what was so valuable in their eyes, and emphasize that which they had, if not altogether denied, almost completely lost sight of.
It has been said: “Rays of light, whether they proceed from the sun, star, or candle, move in perfect straight lines; yet so inferior are our works to God’s that the steadiest hand cannot draw a perfectly straight line; nor, with all his skill, has man ever been able to invent an instrument capable of doing a thing apparently so simple” (T. Guthrie, 1867). Be this so or not, certain it is that men, left to themselves, have ever found it impossible to keep the even line of Truth between what appear to be conflicting doctrines: such as the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man; election by grace and the universal proclamation of the Gospel; the justifying faith of Paul and the justifying works of James. Only too often, where the absolute sovereignty of God has been insisted upon, it has been to the ignoring of man’s accountability; and where unconditional election has been held fast, the unfettered preaching of the Gospel to the unsaved has been let slip. So, on the other hand, where human accountability has been upheld and an evangelical ministry been sustained, the sovereignty of God and the truth of election have generally been whittled down or completely ignored.
From every text of Scripture there is a road to Christ…I have never found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it. Charles Spurgeon
A remarkable resurgence of Christocentric interpretation has emerged in recent decades, reflected in leaders, books, commentary series, conferences, and even websites. This is not to say that a single, monolithic Christocentric hermeneutic has emerged among evangelicals. Yet amid the diversity, certain elements appear relatively stable among the various stripes of Christocentric interpretation: a conviction about the unity and coherence of the Bible, a sensitivity to the unfolding storyline across redemptive history, a willingness to read texts in a genre-sensitive way, an impulse to resist moralistic and graceless readings, a belief in the validity of biblical theology, and above all a desire to responsibly connect every text to the Bible’s redemptive climax, Jesus Christ.
“There is a typological link between every aspect of the Old Testament and the person of Jesus Christ,” writes Graeme Goldsworthy. “All Scripture has a redemptive purpose,” claims Bryan Chapell; “None of the Scriptures are so limited in purpose as to give us only moral instruction or lifestyle correction.” “Every Old Testament text must be viewed in light of Jesus’ person and ministry,” says Craig Blomberg. And such assertions among contemporary evangelicals could be quickly proliferated. Yet it is one thing to affirm such statements in principle. It is another to take a text that does not transparently lend itself to such a hermeneutic and read it in accord with these kinds of statements. That is what this essay seeks to do, with Psalm 15 serving as the test case.
Practicioners will quibble here or there with how Christocentric interpretation is to be carried out, and different arms of the Protestant church will work out of distinct frameworks, even while equally claiming a wish to read the Bible in a Christocentric way. One immediate example of this would be the difference between Lutheran and Reformed interpretive presuppositions in how to handle the Psalms in an appropriately Christocentric way. Such diversity notwithstanding, it is worth asking how Jesus would have us interpret this psalm, doing so mindful of diverse emphases among conservative Protestantism.
Gill embryology is similar in all sorts of fish, but this does not support the fishy story of our evolutionary past.
Can a landmark discovery about how fish embryos grow their gills connect us firmly to roots under the sea? Cambridge University zoologists J. Andrew Gillis and Olivia R.A. Tidswell think so.
Fish use gills to extract oxygen from water. Evolutionists maintain that vertebrates without gills—like us—have gills “present as vestiges in our own embryology.”1 (More on that below.) But where did gills come from in the first place? Enquiring evolutionists want to know! To find out, they look for similarities in the gills of different sorts of fish embryos. They hope to thereby unveil the gills of the common evolutionary ancestor of all fish and to gain a clue about how very different groups of fish—jawless, bony, and cartilaginous—diverged.
A Fishy Controversy
The skate is a jawed fish with a cartilaginous skeleton. Like all fish, it has gills. Gillis and Tidswell have used modern methods to study the skate’s embryonic gill development. Their surprising discovery has resolved a long-standing controversy and overturned information accepted since the 19th century. The controversy has hinged on the cellular origin of gills within a fish embryo.
We know that pornography is an ugly and harmful sin. We know that those who indulge in porn have committed the sin of lust, but there is so much more to it than that. When you open your browser and begin to look at those images and videos, you are sinning in ways that go far beyond lust. Here are 8 sins you commit when you look at porn.
You commit the sin of idolatry. All sin is idolatry, an attempt to find joy and satisfaction not in God himself but in what God forbids (Exodus 20:3-6). Matt Papa says it well: “An idol, simply put, is anything that is more important to you than God. It is anything that has outweighed God in your life—anything that you love, trust, or obey more than God—anything that has replaced God as essential to your happiness.” In the moment you begin to look at porn, you have allowed it to replace God as essential to your happiness. You’ve committed the sin of idolatry.
Meet Alvin Plantinga
Alvin Plantinga was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Raised in the Christian Reformed Church, he has theological roots in the Dutch Reformed tradition. As the son of a philosophy and psychology professor, Plantinga evidenced a knack for and interest in philosophy early on.1
Plantinga studied philosophy at Harvard, Calvin College, the University of Michigan, and Yale, earning his PhD from Yale in 1957. Throughout his prolific career, Plantinga spent the majority of his years teaching, first, at Calvin College for nineteen years, then, until his recent retirement, at Notre Dame University. It would not be an overstatement to say that virtually all matters metaphysical and epistemological must address much of Plantinga’s own work. His Nature of Necessity did much to further discussions of modality in metaphysics, and his most recent work in epistemology, the roots of which began early in his career, have stimulated a multitude of developments and critiques in philosophical and theological circles.
Matthew 5:17-20 – Complete Jewish Bible, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”
The Torah/Law is a much maligned and misunderstood term. Some teach the law was nailed to the cross. Many others are confused as to what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:17-20 as they have been taught for some time to distance themselves from the law. Are either approaches just mentioned in keeping with what Jesus is saying to us in Matthew 5:17-20?
The first item of note is the declaration by Jesus that He did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. In most translations this is stated as the “Law and the Prophets”, which is often the source of confusion. Given the popular teaching that we have been saved from the law or that the law is a burden and source of death to those who dare to follow it, it is no wonder Matthew 5:17-20 can be so confusing for some. The phrase “Torah (Law) and the Prophets” is a reference to the Old Testament. Jesus starts off by noting He did not come to do away with the front half of the Bible, meaning His arrival on the scene was not meant to overthrow or subvert the Old Testament.
Jesus continues explaining that He came to complete the Law and the Prophets. The word translated as fulfill is the Greek verb plēroō which has a variety of meanings depending on context. The appropriate meaning to be applied to Matthew 5:17 is that of “to fulfill, i.e. to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment”. Jesus is the focus of the promise of redemption found throughout Scripture. As the promised Messiah, He is the locus of the movement of redemptive history. He came to do what we could not, namely to perfectly obey God’s commands and to serve as the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin.
A lot of ink gets spilled regarding the idea of complete. Some suggest this word means that all of the Old Testament Law becomes irrelevant as the cross ushered in a new era of grace. Such a position is difficult to support given that Jesus also notes in Matthew 5:18 something of great importance – “until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened.” Two important markers are noted by Jesus here with the first being heaven and earth passing away and the second that of everything happening that must happen. Last time I checked, the current heaven and earth has not yet passed away to be replaced with the redeemed creation promised to us.
The second marker refers to everything happening that must happen. Some believe this statement refers to the Cross given the idea that the Law was done away with there. In order to understand what Jesus is saying here, we need to look at how the rest of Scripture explains this point. The Apostle Paul in Romans 3:31 explains, “Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” Scripture often makes the comparison between the wicked and the righteous with the wicked being those who pursue lawlessness and the righteous as those who embrace God’s commands. By definition, being without law is lawlessness. Since lawlessness is a hallmark of the wicked, as God’s people, we should be the one’s who love God’s Law and seek to abide by the teaching of Scripture through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was so specific about the continued need for God’s commands in the life of the believer that He stated not a single yud (jot) or a stroke (tittle) will pass from the Torah until everything that must happen has happened. Martyn Lloyd-Jones aptly comments, “There is nothing smaller than these, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the smallest point in the smallest letter.” This means not a single element of the Law and the Prophets will pass away until all is fulfilled, until we reach that point in salvation history when sin and death are dealt that eternal blow and we once again return to that which was lost in the beginning, eternity in the presence of God.
As we move along further in this passage, Jesus further defines the purpose of God’s law. He declares that whoever disobeys even the least of these mitzvot (God’s commands and precepts) and those who teach others to disobey will be called least in the Kingdom of God. Does this mean we are to obey every single one of the 613 commandments found in the Mosaic Law? Some look at this passage and make such an assumption resulting in the incorrect interpretation that somehow the Law must have been nailed to the cross. The truth of the matter is not all 613 commandments were for everyone. Many of these laws were related specifically to matters of the priesthood, some were for women, with many others geared directly for matters of that day and time. One reason Matthew 5:17-20 is misunderstood is because often times we fail to understand the broader storyline of Scripture and isolate this passage from the rest of the Scriptures.
Jesus notes the Law and the Prophets will not pass away, not even the smallest letter or word separation until everything has happened that must happen. We also know that apart from the Law there is nothing but lawlessness. So what is Jesus saying here in Matthew 5:17-20? He is noting the authority of God’s Word from beginning to end. Lloyd-Jones once again sheds salient light on this issue, noting:
“But above all, here is this pronouncement by the Son of God himself, in which he says that he has not come to supersede the Old Testament, the law and the prophets…He regarded it all as the Word of God and finally authoritative. And you and I, if we are to be true followers of Him and believers in Him, are to do the same. The moment you begin to question the authority of the Old Testament, you are of necessity questioning the authority of the Son of God himself, and you will find yourself in endless trouble and difficulty.”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day often added to the Word of God (the Law and the Prophets), elevating the traditions of man to a place of authority, furthermore, teaching those traditions as authoritative to the people. Thus their righteousness was based not on obedience to the commands of God, but an incorrect mixture of man-made tradition and God’s Word. It is no wonder Jesus chastised them for teaching something other than the Law and the Prophets.
The lesson that can be gleaned from Matthew 5:17-20 is that all of God’s Word remains valid as the source of authority. As Christians, we would do well to abide by His commands. Moreover, God’s Law is something to embrace as it defines for His people what it means to love God and to others. We continue to live in a sinful world. In order to understand what sin is all about and what living righteously means, we have to continually refer to the pages of Scripture as the gold standard. As noted by A. W. Pink, “Christ’s setting his seal upon the inviolable authority of the Law intimates its perfections: every part of it is needed by us, every sentence evidences its Divine authorship, every precept calls for our loving obedience.”
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans, 1976), 162.
 Ibid., 164.
 A. W. Pink, Sermon on the Mount (Lafeyette: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 54.
He that saith he abided in him, ought himself also to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2:6
The express and principal design of the apostle, in this chapter, is to propound marks and signs, both negative and positive, for the trial and examination of men’s claims to Christ; amongst which (not to spend time about the coherence) my text is a principal one; a trial of men’s interest in Christ, by their imitation of Christ. It is supposed by some expositors, that the apostle, in laying down this mark, had a special design to overthrow the wicked doctrine of the Carpocratians, who taught (as Epiphanius relates it) that men might have as much communion with God in sin as in duty. In full opposition to which the apostle lays down this proposition, wherein he asserts the necessity of a Christ-like conversation in all that claim union with him, or interest with him. The words resolve themselves into two parts, viz.
1. A claim to Christ supposed.
2. The only way to have our claim warranted.
First, We have here a claim to Christ supposed; “if any man say he abideth in him.” Abiding in Christ is an expression denoting proper and real interest in Christ, and communion with him; for it is put in opposition to those temporary, light, and transient effects of the gospel, which are called a morning dew, or an early cloud; such a receiving of Christ as that, Mat. 13: 21. which is but a present flash, sudden and vanishing; abiding in Christ notes a solid, durable, and effectual work of the Spirit, thoroughly and everlastingly joining the soul to Christ. Now, if any man, whosoever he be (for this indefinite is equivalent to an universal term) let him never think his claim to be good and valid, except he take this course to adjust it.
Of the Imitation of Christ in Holiness of Life, and the necessity of it in Believers.
“He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 11:6
These words have been resolved into their parts, and their sense opened in the former sermon: The observation was this:
That every man is bound to the imitation of Christ, under penalty of forfeiting his claim to Christ.
In prosecution of this point, we have already shown what the imitation of Christ imports, and what the imitable excellencies in the life of Christ are: It now remains that I shew you in the next place, why all that profess Christ are bound to imitate his example and then apply the whole. Now the necessity of this imitation of Christ will convincingly appear divers ways.
First, From the established order of salvation, which is fixed and unalterable: God that has appointed the end, has also established the means and order by which men shall attain the ultimate end. Now conformity to Christ is the established method in which God will bring souls to glory, Rom. 8: 29. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the first born among many brethren.” The same God who has predestinated men to salvation, has in order thereunto, predestinated them unto conformity to Christ, and this order of heaven is never to be reversed; we may as well hope to be saved without Christ, as to be saved without conformity to Christ.